More than half of Australians are too busy to take lunch every day of the week, and those who do find the time often steer away from healthy choices, according to new research.
SumoSalad, a fast food chain that promises healthy meals, conducted research into the lunchtime eating habits of Australians, finding that the pressures of a nine-to-five work life are often pushing workers into picking convenience over nutrition when it comes to midday meals.
The report stated that almost 80% of Australians would take a break of 30 minutes or less for lunch, while almost half are so busy that they skip the meal entirely at least once a week.
Health is secondary
With increasing working hours cutting into leisure time, few are finding the time to prepare food to take to the office, or even finding nutritious meals during their lunch breaks. Almost two-thirds of people in the survey said they didn’t eat healthy lunches regularly, and only 31% said health and nutrition were important factors in their lunchtime food choices.
Melanie McGrice, a spokesperson for the Dietitians Association of Australia, suggested that the results of the survey were symptomatic of Australians' approach to eating.
"We are certainly very blessed with our diverse and fresh food supply in Australia, yet not everyone makes the most of this. For example, nine out of every 10 Australians don’t meet their recommended five servings of vegetables each day," she told FoodNavigator-Asia.
Coming top of the list of the worst lunchtime eaters were workers in the state of New South Wales, home to Australia’s most populous city, Sydney.
There, respondents were most likely to forego healthy food for the sake of a fast food grab, with burgers, french fries, noodles, pies and sausage rolls among the most popular lunchtime choices.
McGrice stressed the importance of lunch not just for personal health, but also in terms of productivity: "We know that when people skip meals they aren’t as productive and are likely to overeat later, so this increases the number of Australians struggling with their weight."
Asked if any public measures were being taken in Australia to promote the need to eat well at regular times, McGrice added that there were none yet, as far as she was aware.
According to a separate survey, employees are on average spending an extra, unpaid week at work each year as a result of working through lunch.
The Grill’d hamburger chain asked 1,000 Sydney workers about their eating habits to find that almost one-third cut short their lunch breaks because they feare they might land in trouble with their bosses.
On the other side of the coin, business owners and management were on average the most likely to take the longest breaks, while labourers and menial workers would be among the first to return to work.